Presenter Stacey Dooley’s BBC investigation into the environmental cost of the cotton industry saw jaws dropping across the country.
The wider public had little comprehension that every pair of jeans they buy uses 3,400 gallons of water in the manufacturing process. However, they do now.
Despite its modest billing on BBC III, Fashion’s Dirty Secrets, created a huge talking point and singlehandedly started to widen the focus of outrage at the devastation of single-use plastics, to the equally-grave impact of fast fashion.
For now, the spotlight is firmly on consumer clothing. The questionable textile habits of the hospitality and healthcare sectors remain in the shadows. But savvy players in these industries are now trying hard to make much-needed improvements before they too come under greater scrutiny.
The shame of the early exit
So what would Stacey Dooley find, if she took a film crew in to our nation’s laundry houses? The sheer scale of UK operations would make for good television alone – 743,651 tonnes of washing going through the wash annually, at 134 sites.
That’s mainly hotel bed linen, towels, tablecloths, napkins and linen, plus workwear and laundry from hospitals. So far so good.
Stacey would also learn that, on average, 10% of laundry companies’ turnover currently goes on new stock to replace what’s been thrown away. Some of that cotton and poly/cotton is truly worn out – but a significant proportion is of items that have simply been condemned too soon.
And this is where the investigative journalist would start to sit up and take notice. “So, that’s stock that would be absolutely fine for many washes to come, were it not for the stains?” she would ask.
The simple answer is “Yes.” And the environmental cost of this ‘early exit’ – textiles ragged or sent to landfill, long before the end of their potentially serviceable life – is staggering.
Particularly so, when it’s considered that 70% of the carbon footprint of an item of linen is taken up in its manufacture. All the washing, ironing and transportation that comes after is only 30%.
This sorry situation becomes a full-on scandal, in Stacey’s eyes, when it’s revealed that 75% to 80% of such items could be cleaned – or re-dyed – and returned to stock to carry on clothing beds, medics and chefs for many months or even years to come.
Regenex’s pioneering stain removal system
Laundry houses do a great job using Continuous Batch Washing (CBW) for the vast majority of commercial linens.
Yet when it comes to tricky stains, their established high-temperature treatments are successful only in a minority of cases – while eating up extra staff hours and energy, and creating more costs.
Regenex’s cost-effective system, meanwhile, is much gentler in its multi-bath approach, and has a 75% to 80% success rate for all condemned linens. What’s more, it shares its heat and steam with textile processes on the same site in Bradford, West Yorkshire.
The treatment, developed over many months and tested by university scientists, is new to the industry – but already saving textile providers across the UK many thousands of pounds on the purchase of needless top-up stock. After building capacity, we are now in a position to take on new customers.
In Stacey’s documentary about the laundry sector, a final segment about Regenex, looking to a more optimistic future of careful reuse of all those towels, lab coats and bedsheets, would give viewers new hope that the industry can start to clean up its act, stain by stain.
Regenex is offering a FREE trial of 400g of kilos of linen to any new customer. Contact us today to discuss your requirements.